UPDATE: Canadian GM workers laid off due to US strike

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LANSING, MI (WILX) - The strike by 49,000 United Auto Workers against General Motors is starting to affect production in other countries.

UAW strikes against GM (Source: MGN)

Company spokesman Dan Flores confirms that the 3-day-old strike has forced GM to place about 1,200 workers on temporary layoff at a Canadian factory that makes pickup trucks.

The plant in Oshawa, Ontario, near Toronto makes the previous generation Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra full-size pickups.

The Silverado is GM's top-selling vehicle in the U.S.

The plant also makes the Chevrolet Impala large car, and that production has not been affected.

Flores says production continues at two other Canadian plants which make engines and the Chevrolet Equinox SUV.

He says parts shortages due to the strike have not affected production in Mexico.

Union and company bargainers rested Tuesday night but returned to work Wednesday morning as a strike by United Auto Workers that brought 33 General Motors factories to a halt continued into its third day.

Progress was reported as committees continued work on thorny issues such as wages, health insurance costs, use of temporary workers, and new work for plants
slated to close.

UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said the talks were moving slowly but progressing.

More than 49,000 workers walked off their jobs on Monday in a dispute over the union's quest to get a bigger share of GM's profits and the company's goal of cutting labor costs so they're closer to those at U.S. auto plants run by foreign companies.

Health care costs and giving temporary workers a clear path to permanent jobs were two major sticking points in talks toward a new four-year contract.

Union and company bargainers are making progress toward a new contract as a strike by United Auto Workers brought 33 General Motors factories to a halt continued into its third day.

Committees working on thorny issues such as wages, health insurance costs, use of temporary workers, and new work for plants slated to close worked until early evening Tuesday and are scheduled to resume bargaining early Wednesday.

UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said the talks were moving slowly but progressing.

More than 49,000 workers walked off their jobs on Monday in a dispute over the union's quest to get a bigger share of GM's profits and the company's goal of cutting labor costs so they're closer to those at U.S. auto plants run by foreign companies.

Health care costs and giving temporary workers a clear path to permanent jobs were two major sticking points in talks toward a new four-year contract.

UAW members at General Motors were asked to sign up for COBRA on Tuesday.

The third day officially marked this as the longest strike against the automaker.

GM advised workers they will need to obtain COBRA health care paid for by the United Auto Workers strike fund until a new labor agreement is reached.

Workers say they are dug in for the long haul to receive the compensation they believe they deserve from GM.

"With this being such a pivotal point in the contract, I can do it as long as necessary because it's sacrificing the time I've put in thus far," said GM employee Ray Carter Wilson. "This is a long-term thing for me."

GM is looking to cut it's costs, which workers say is unfair to them.

Workers said they shouldn't have to pay more than they currently do because GM is making billions in profits.

Currently, hourly workers are paying 3 to 4 percent of their health care cost. Sources close to the negotiations told Crain's that GM's initial contract offer to the UAW asked for workers to kick in 15 percent of health care costs.

The national average for employee health care contributions is around 28 percent.

"We understand strikes are difficult and disruptive to families," said Daniel Flores, a GM spokesman. "While on strike, some benefits shift to being funded by the union’s strike fund, and in this case hourly employees are eligible for union-paid COBRA so their health care benefits can continue."

Other sticking points include wages, increased profit sharing, job security and a path to permanent seniority for temporary workers.

The Detroit Free Press reported that GM offered a four-year contract with a two percent hourly pay increase for the first and third year, and a two percent lump-sum payments in the other years.

However, the union rejected the offer.

More than 50 GM factories and parts warehouses across the country remained closed Tuesday.

GM issued a brief statement on the progress of negotiations Tuesday morning: "Negotiations have resumed. Our goal remains to reach an agreement that builds a stronger future for our employees and our business."

A letter sent from Terry Dittes, Vice President and Director of UAW General Motors, is expelling any rumors that health care coverage for those striking will cease.

He stated in the letter:
"To allay any concerns that our Members may have regarding an interruption in health care coverage, I am writing to confirm that the Company will continue health care benefits through the end of the month for all UAW-represented employees as provided for in the contracts."

There have been posts on social media stating concern over benefits halted while workers are on strike.

On the UAW website/strike FAQ section they state that "The UAW Strike and Defense Fund covers certain benefits such as medical and prescription drugs. Benefits not covered include: dental, vision, hearing and sick and accident." And that these "benefits are either paid directly by the Fund according to the company’s current plan or by having the Strike and Defense Fund make COBRA payments to the company plan."

Also on Tuesday, State Representative, Sarah Anthony (D-Lansing) sent out a statement supporting the auto workers:
“As a daughter of two UAW members, I stand in solidarity with our Lansing residents and those across the state and nation in their fight for better wages, more affordable health care and increased job security. The UAW has a significant presence in our community, with 4,000 autoworker members right here in Lansing. I join those who are striking in their demands for positive work conditions. Our workers deserve access to all the tools they need to build the happy, healthy and successful lives they deserve. I hope these negotiations end swiftly and fairly for our UAW brothers and sisters; but until that happens, I pledge my support to them in this endeavor and beyond.”

State Rep. Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Township) also released a statement on Tuesday:
“I was raised on picket lines and am always proud to stand with UAW members fighting for affordable healthcare, fair wages and to keep jobs here in Michigan. I’m hopeful the UAW and General Motors can negotiate and ratify a fair contract so Michigan’s autoworkers can get back on the job and we can continue rolling cars off assembly lines here in the United States.”

And, State Rep. Kara Hope (D-Holt) said:
“I fully support the UAW in their ongoing fight for better benefits and job security. I was proud to stand with striking workers on Monday as part of UAW Local 652’s picket line in front of the Grand River Assembly plant here in Lansing. General Motors is a major employer in Michigan and right here in the Lansing area, so not only do I hope the strike is resolved fairly, I hope it is resolved quickly. Although a strike creates temporary hardship for workers, the contract that they are currently fighting for will certainly be worth it in the long run.”

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A letter sent from Terry Dittes, Vice President and Director of UAW General Motors, is expelling any rumors that health care coverage for those striking will cease. (Source WILX)